His Work Crafts Stories into Masterpieces
By: Ettie Newlands | Carolina Forest Chronicle
November 17, 2016
Logan Woodle bangs humor and pathos out of metal, telling the stories that might otherwise be lost.
Take his clabber ladle, for example. What Woodle knew of his paternal grandfather “revolved around his inability to waste anything.
“He owned a country store and when the milk started to sour, he’d put it in the back of the refrigerator until it solidified and then tip that carton back and drink it,” Woodle tells. “My dad had a memory of him, literally, with the rotting milk running down his face.”
That story has transferred into his sterling silver clabber ladle. Oh wait, look closely…those are utters dripping liquid on its underside.
It was Woodle’s maternal grandfather, Billy Livingston – “Papa” to Woodle – who told him the stories he’s banged out into museum-quality masterpieces.
“It’s not that the rest of my family wasn’t important, but he was the one who told the stories. I was the one who listened and those stories dug deep,” he says.
Woodle and his wife Jeannette Darhower live in the home, less than a mile from the family farm that Papa left to him when he died three years ago. Technically, Woodle was raised in the Pitch Landing area of Conway, but Papa and Mama Gin’s place was his second home then, and his literal home now.
An assistant professor of visual arts, Woodle teaches three-dimensional design and metal smithing at Coastal Carolina University and his wife works at Weaver Construction.
His work is displayed through the end of December at the Franklin G. Burroughs – Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum at 3100 S. Ocean Blvd. in Myrtle Beach.
That exhibit will travel to Missouri next year.
The exhibit, “Blessed Burdens,” “reminds us not only of our agricultural heritage, but of the origin of the products we consume,” said Pat Goodwin, executive director at the museum.
Woodle, now 28, was an intern at the museum when he was a Carolina Forest High School student a decade ago.
Seeing his work in the museum is, he says, “surreal.”
The metal artist designed and created a rendering of Chauncey, CCU’s mascot, a project that took two years.
“A piece that large becomes part of the community and the entire community has to identify with it and feel like it belongs to them,” he says about it.
“My work is always a challenge. But that’s what I’m trained to do.”
“His sense of humor is so wry, it almost makes you snicker out loud,” Goodwin says about that work.
About his own work, Woodle says, “It shows hunger and poverty and slavery and cultural stereo-typing.” Is there humor in that? “You can find humor in anything,” he says.
For example, when he was a kid, and brought home a grade of ‘A’ from Carolina Forest High School, his reward was hog head cheese from the Conway meat market.
“It was a delicacy,” he says. “If you look at the food we ate through the eyes of an outsider, it’s disgusting and horrifying, but through family and tradition, it’s sacred.
“I juxtapose value with worthlessness.”
Thus, his sterling silver and copper gravy boat shaped like a pig.
He heard the stories on Friday nights when other kids were at the movies and he was in the deer-skinning shed.
He heard them when he “grew up around older farming gentlemen not knowing theirs weren’t the normal points of view.”
These stories, Woodle says, have to be told in a way that is palatable to the listener.
“If you tell someone you had to eat a pig’s colon or die, that gets too serious, they don’t want to listen. If your work is too hard to understand, people walk away. If it’s too easy, they won’t care.
“My work is designed to speak to a family of farmers who never set foot in a museum and also to a museum curator.
“I spend a lot of time with people who don’t have the context to understand, figuring out how to speak to them.
“Art is about communication, not therapy. It has to communicate.”
Goodman describes Woodle’s work as “functional and whimsical.”
The goal of that work, the artist says, “is to tell narratives and history.”
He oversimplifies by saying, “It’s controlled chaos. Everything I make starts with a sheet of flat metal 1/16 of an inch thick and I hit it to make it three-dimensional.”
The narratives he tells, he says, “are the ones kids hear 75 times from their parents and grandparents.
“They are the stories you roll your eyes at when you hear them, but they kept telling us because they were important. There are hidden kernels in them and I look for the value in discarded family narratives.”